Posts Tagged ‘think

29
Jul
22

Plagued by Purpose

Deep Thinker

There was a time… I remember it well… when the answer was so simple, it wasn’t even necessary to ask the question.

Those were the days when you only had to look one branch down on the family tree to know what your life was all about. 

Back then, asking why you were here on this planet was akin to picking up a hammer and asking why ITexisted. 

We each knew we were here to carry on… to receive and then pass the baton… to stoke the fires of family tradition, keeping them burning for those who come after. 

It was a sacred trust we dared not interrupt.

Those of us raised in that time knew it was only either saints or psychos who heard voices calling them to undertake BOLD, HISTORY-SHAPING ventures. For the rest of us, ours was to keep our heads down, our noses clean, and our shoulders firmly pressed against the wheel.

Until it wasn’t.

One day, everything turned upside down. One day, planes full of new high school graduates started taking off and flying west over the ocean. The next day, those same planes flew back filled with body bags. No one ever fully explained to us why it was necessary, or when it would end, or what we hoped to gain. They just kept sending more of us over there to die.

So, we stopped trusting them. We stopped assuming they were right. Until they could come up with better answers, we officially declined the job of Cultural Continuity Custodians

Because they were YOUR answers and not OURS, those answers were automatically WRONG. We didn’t believe it was true until we discovered it ourselves. In pursuit of that truth, we employed every tool of discovery imaginable. 

And so today, many years later, here I sit. Wondering. 

  • Are we here to be blind stewards of tradition, obediently carrying forward that which has been handed us?
  • Are we instead called to be students of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, understanding that “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever,” and be done with it?
  • Or was it a good thing that we once opened this Pandora’s Pouch of Pulsating Possibilities and realized our power to CHOOSE and SHAPE the world we inhabit?

So, what is my purpose?

What is YOUR purpose?

What, in broader terms, is the purpose of life PERIOD?

For the definitive answer, we turn to the Source of all definitive answers. Jesus himself.

In the fourth chapter of John, after Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well (you know… the town outcast to whom Jesus offered comfort and a new vision for her future), he gave this very succinct definition of his purpose: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.” (John 4:34, NRSVU). 

There it is. Simple and straightforward… deftly summarizing shelves and shelves of books on the topic: FINDING LIFE’S PURPOSE.

Do God’s will. In this moment. And this moment. And this moment. Ad infinitum… until you look back and behold a life filled with a long string of moments of divine obedience. 

  1. Do God’s will.
  2. Complete God’s work. 

Simple as that.

Abundant blessings;

25
Jul
21

It’s a Blunder-ful Life

The website Dictionary.com defines a blunder as, “… a gross, stupid, or careless mistake.”

Blunders are errors that reside multiple levels above missteps like, say, putting the pasta away on the baking shelf, or calling John Jim, or taking a sip of your wife’s iced tea instead of your own.

Oh, if only it were that simple.

For me, a blunder is what you call it when your screw-up meets three different criteria; first, it was the wrong thing to do. Second, it could – by taking a minute to stop and think – have been avoided. And third, it caused some kind of not-insignificant damage… either to the blunderer him/herself, or to an innocent bystander. 

Looking back on my life, I can recount errors, mistakes, faux pas, and goof-ups aplenty.

But sadly, also littered across the landscape of my 69 years, are multiple blunders

Let me tell you about one of my most recent. 

It happened earlier this year, when Joan and I were visiting my eldest son, DIL, and their five kids. The nine of us assembled in Houston, preparing to head to a lovely beach house on Galveston Island for the Easter weekend. 

Before heading to the beach, son, two youngest grandsons, and I headed over to the park for some playful time-wasting. The two kids headed immediately to the swing set where they met a friend… the son of my son’s co-worker. 

The game that ensued between the kids was the ever-popular, “Who Can Swing the Highest and Then Jump the Furthest Off the Swing.” At first, the dads were just refereeing the competition by drawing lines in the mulch pit to mark where each kid landed. Then the dads decided to get involved, rudely shoving their children aside, growling, “My turn, junior!”

(They didn’t really do that, but it sounds funnier when I say that…)

Seeing all the fun the dads (my son) and their kids (my grandson) were having, I decided it was time for Grandpa to give it a go. 

As it turned out, that was a really bad idea. 

I mounted the swing and began my ascent. I pumped my legs and got the swing up as high as I could. Once up there in the stratosphere, I realized this was going to be a lot more difficult than either the six- or the 40-year-olds made it look. 

Closing my eyes and hoping for the best, I bailed out at the exact apogee of my next upward swing. Finally airborne, I immediately felt a sharp pain in my right pinkie finger and began twisting in that direction. I landed on my left side with a resounding thud eighteen inches from my takeoff point. Looking down I saw that my right pinkie finger had apparently become tangled in the swing chain and was now bleeding profusely. 

Of course, the dads and kids all rushed over, visibly concerned and asking, “Are you alright? Are you alright?” 

“Well, I think I might lose this fingernail, but otherwise, I think I’m OK,” I replied, no small amount of embarrassment blood rising to fill my cheeks.

Thankfully, the fingernail survived, though dignity and self-esteem took a serious beating that day. Joan got me a bandage to staunch the bleeding, but did not seem terribly sympathetic to my plight. 

I’m not sure what the moral of this story is other than, “Act your age,” or “Think before you act,” or maybe just “Don’t do it, Grandpa. Just don’t.”

The reality is: we all commit blunders. Sometimes the consequences are big. Sometimes they are small. Sometimes we learn from our blunders. Sometimes we just keep on blundering, unenlightened. 

The point is as much as we try, none of us will live a blunder-free life. Hopefully the blunders will be fewer and further between as we (gracefully) age. 

As King Solomon tells us in the book of Proverbs: “I applied my heart to what I observed
and learned a lesson from what I saw…” 
(Proverbs 24:32, NRSV).

Abundant blessings;

13
Jul
21

Whatever happened to whistling?

As I walked into the restroom at the Denver Convention Center the other day, I was whistling. 

“You just put your lips together and blow!”

To my best recollection, the tune was Phil Collins’ I Can’t Dance… the most recent song playing on my car’s radio when I parked it in the parking garage. 

For me, whistling is a very common practice. That is probably because I was raised by a father who whistled all the time. In fact, one of the skills dad was most proud of was his ability to whistle harmonically… that is, to whistle two different notes at the same time. Had it existed at the time, I am sure he could have competed on America’s Got Talent and received at least one “YES” vote from Howie Mandel.

Dad whistled songs. He whistled random notes in sequence. He summoned us home from playing with the neighbors with a jaunty little six-note tune of his own devising. 

As I said, whistling was a regular part of my growing up years.

But I discovered – shortly after walking into that convention center restroom – that I must be very much alone in my acceptance of whistling. Heads turned from urinals toward me as I entered… clearly unsettled by the sound emanating from my pursed lips. Reading the gazes, I saw uncertainty… discomfort… wariness. 

Apparently,” I thought, “Whistling is not the friendly, happy-go-lucky thing to these guys that it is to me.” And so, not wanting to be the source of distress in the middle of everyone’s private moment, I stopped.

The more I thought about it later, the more it dawned on me; I really don’t hear much whistling anymore. 

Out there on the street, folks have their ear buds in, listening to whatever. Or else they are walking along pondering the meaning of life, reviewing their grocery list, reliving last night’s difficult dinner conversation, or daydreaming about winning the lottery. 

ANYTHING but whistling.

What about you? Do you whistle? If not, what is your opinion of people who do? Do you agree that whistling has gone the way of the eight-track tape and rabbit ears on the TV? And if so, why do you suppose that is?

That’s it. Nothing theological or particularly deep today. Just one of those, “Things that make you go, ‘Hmmmm.’”

Blessings;

28
Apr
21

An Idle Mind

Idle hands are not a problem for me.

Most of the time, I am either doing something or reveling in the fact that I am NOT doing anything.

An idle mind though? That’s another story entirely.

It happened to me just the other day.

Most of the time, I guard against Idle Brain Syndrome pretty well. I’ve read Proverbs 19:15 where it warns, “Laziness brings on deep sleep; an idle person will suffer hunger.” Lord knows I’d do almost anything to avoid hunger.

So, when I am in the middle of a monotonous or repetitive activity (like exercising or working in the yard), I am pretty good at finding ways to keep my brain engaged. I will go ahead and offer the spiritual answer right off the bat and tell you that I regularly use that idle time to talk with God. 

But not always. 

[Honestly, I sometimes wonder if God gets a little tired of me and my nonsense. God is too polite to come right out and say it, but I’m sure he wants to interrupt me right at the beginning and say something like, “Again, Russell? You know, we’ve been over this territory AT LEAST six thousand times already! Can you come back later when you’ve got some fresh material?”]

Sometimes I listen to music during my tedious stretches.

At other times I listen to podcasts through my Bluetooth device (… some of my favorites include TED Talks, Hidden Brain, The Next Right Thing, Maybe God, Unlocking Us, and Revisionist History). 

But yesterday, while I toiled away at the wearisome task of putting a brick border around one of our front flower beds, I had NOTHING. No music. No podcasts. No prayers.

Just a dull job and an idle mind. 

And now I know why God seems to be such a non-fan of idle brains. 

That’s because they can go anywhere, y’all! They can latch onto an insipid song lyric and wear it smooth. They can invent entire conversations out of whole cloth and orchestrate them so that I ALWAYS come out on top! They can rehash events from the past that should be left well enough alone. They can start imagining things that might/could/should/ possibly happen at some unspecified time in the future and turn them into a nightmare apocalyptic scenario. 

Or they can just descend into meaningless gibberish. 

And once again I am reminded of the incredible width and breadth of possibilities we possess as human beings. The same brain that can become inescapably fixated on the Baby Shark song is also capable of creating art that stirs hearts and souls, or devising words to soothe a grieving friend, or naming all the states of the U.S. in order alphabetically. 

James, the half-brother of Jesus, once wrote, “Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water?  Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs?” (James 3:11-12, NRSV). 

No. But the human brain can perform an amazing array of complex and even contradictory tasks, all without breaking a sweat. 

And ALL of that is a gift from the God who loves and trusts us.

Is that cool or what?

Abundant blessings;




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